Belmont forward Jessica Thomson and Stelly's defender Cianna Wolski await the result of a Bulldogs shot during Tuesday's city AAA senior girls basketball league game at Belmont. Thomson led the Bulldogs with 16 points and collected 13 rebounds in a 40-31 win.

Bulldogs’ win virtually assures a home court playoff spot in Langford

Senior girls basketball season heading toward the post-season

Belmont secondary is hosting the city AAA senior girls basketball tournament in February, but until last night, it wasn’t clear whether the Bulldogs would be in the six-team event.

Hitting some key baskets down the stretch, Belmont’s girls pulled away from Stelly’s and posted a 40-31 home win to push their record to 2-3 in league play. The victory increased the likelihood of a top-five finish for the Bulldogs, who round out league play tonight (Jan. 21) with a game against Reynolds at Claremont.

After the league’s exam break, Belmont hosts the city playoff tournament Feb. 11 to 13.

“The win more or less assured that we won’t have to play that play-in game,” said Belmont coach Brad Lidstone, referring to a sixth-versus-seventh match to determine the last team in the playoffs.

The Bulldogs were led Tuesday by their three returning players. Jessica Thomsen scored 16 points and pulled down 13 rebounds, while fellow forward Claire Church had 14 points and used her reach to block six Stelly’s shots. Point guard Madison Bullen chipped in five points, collected seven rebounds and had six assists.

The trio, in combination with an athletic group of less experienced players, have helped the Bulldogs improve from the start of the season, Lidstone said.

“Every game we play is better than the one before,” he said, noting that the goal is to keep improving and be “hitting our stride at the right time.”

With the opening of Royal Bay, some of the players who would have been part of the Bulldogs core are now playing for the Ravens. As well, having no junior girls team last season meant there were no Grade 10s moving up to the senior team this year.

“At the start we were optimistic, but we were also realistic,” Lidstone said of the team’s prospects. “We’re pleasantly surprised at how we’ve done.”

Solid results at the Totem 61 tournament in Port Alberni earlier this month, and at their own tournament before Christmas have allowed the team to grow. They’ll get some pre-playoff warmup games next weekend (Jan. 29 and 30) when Belmont hosts the annual Bill Spotswood Memorial tournament.

As for his team’s chances of securing one of the South berths in the Island championships, set for Feb. 18 to 20 at Claremont, Lidstone remains optimistic. Teams can get hot down the stretch, he said, and this year’s AAA league “has a lot more competitive balance” than past years.

Ravens win West Shore showdown … The warm-up game for Tuesday’s senior girls contest at Belmont saw the visiting Royal Bay Ravens down the Bulldogs. All six teams from the city’s junior girls A league advance to the playoffs, to be played Feb. 9 through 12, then Royal Bay hosts the Island championships Feb. 18 to 20.

Late Tuesday at Belmont, the Bulldogs senior boys improved to 3-2 in Div. 1 league play with a 79-65 win over Claremont.

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